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Currents of Enigma

Anoop Verma

By Maythil Radhakrishnan . Translated by V.C. Harris
Indialog Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 140, Rs. 195.00


It is a well-worn cliché that India is a nation divided. Caste, religion, government regulations may be the usual culprits cited, but the most potent of all the fences splintering across the national landscape is definitely of linguistic origin. Indians converse in far more languages than the whole of western Europe. A North Indian meeting a South Indian, more often than not, the only language in which they can communicate is English. When we tire of using as fig leaf the notion that English is now a de facto Indian language, maybe we should devote a while in considering, just how pathetic it is that for a civilization spanning across the millennia, the solitary linguistic zeitgeist connecting people from different parts should be the imported one.   And when English is the most understood language then it should come as no surprise that books written in the same language sell the most. Walk into a bookshop in any city and chances are extremely rare for you to find a book written in a vernacular language among those prominently displayed on the shelves, which will invariably be lined with rows after rows of scintillating titles in English, mostly by western authors. So, where have the Indian writers gone? Are they not writing? It is a common misconception that novel writing is not an Indian art. The vernacular languages are witnessing similar flood of literary works as the English language is. But the tragedy of vernacular writers is that their works, choked under the stranglehold of the linguistic barriers, remain confined to a room audience, that is, unless the work gets translated into English.   To reach out to a national audience a vernacular language author’s book has to be written twice. First, when the author writes it, and for the second time when the translator translates it. The book under review The Love Song of Alfred Hitchcock could come under the public scanner only after it got translated in English. In his lengthy introduction to the book, the translator, V.C. Harris sheds some light on the dilemma of a regional writer. He writes: ‘With a bow toward Walter Benjamin who, in a seminal essay, ‘The Task of the Translator’, speaks of the afterlife of translation, let me record here the sheer joy I felt when a few years ago Maythil Radhakrishnan told me how happy he was that his daughter June ...

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